Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wildlife Bytes Australia 30/3/11

Leading Story

Nearly 900 southern hairy-nosed wombats have been shot with Government sanction since 2006, while many more have been slaughtered illegally. The Government also has rules which state that any young wombats found in the pouch of a shot wombat should be killed by decapitation, as this achieves "a sudden and painless death". Parliament has been told that apart from the official deaths, hundreds more wombats are being killed illegally by landholders across the state. As well as being the state's animal emblem, the wombat is classed as a vulnerable species, but farmers claim its burrows destroy their land and damage farm machinery. Official figures show that between January 1, 2006, and December 22 last year, 139 permits were issued for destruction of South Australian wombats. Environment Department databases show 887 of the marsupials were destroyed under permit in this period, although the data is incomplete pending returns on current permits.

The permits were issued for use on West Coast and Murraylands properties. Under present laws, shooting is the only allowable method for legal destruction of adult southern hairy-nosed wombats in SA.
The figures were released by Environment Minister Paul Caica in answer to questions from Greens Upper House MP Tammy Franks. Mr Caica said the Government had actively investigated past reports of the illegal taking or killing of wombats and took all reports seriously. Ms Franks said reports by animal welfare organisations indicated there was illegal wombat culling, including the use of bulldozers and explosives to destroy burrows and bury the animals alive. "The Wombat Awareness Organisation's 2010 first quarterly report indicates illegal burrow destruction is commonplace and landholders are illegally killing the state's faunal emblem en masse," she said. "The minister's claims fail to stand up against the evidence." She called on the Government to immediately ensure it adequately supported and promoted non-lethal management strategies in the first instance "and prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law landholders who cruelly and illegally kill wombats". Mr Caica said that in no instance was bulldozing of burrows authorised as a method of destruction.

Cruelty Charges

A Mission Beach man has been charged with animal cruelty after he shot a dog which was allegedly attacking a wallaby on his property. The 58-year-old was charged by police after shooting the dog in the leg at his Dargin Rd property on Saturday afternoon. He told police the dog, which belonged to a neighbour, had been chasing a wallaby when he was forced to intervene. The dog survived the ordeal after a short vet stay. The man is due to appear in Tully Magistrates Court on April 21. *CM

Kangaroos Killed for Bait

The Environment department says it believes kangaroos are being killed and used as fishing bait in the River Murray. Kangaroos are a protected species and killing them without a permit attracts a fine of up to $10,000 or two years' jail. The department's Tim Fraser says there have been reports of unauthorised kangaroo shootings and he believes they are being used to catch yabbies. "You've got local butchers and you've also the local kangaroo processing works here at Lyrup doing a very, very good job at supplying bait at a reasonable price but there's other people that think they can just go off and kill a kangaroo and that's a lot cheaper," he said. "[It's] lazy and it's greedy and it's easy and it's totally illegal, the easy way out, the cheap way out. "Certain people in the community just will naturally take that course and I guess they're just running that risk and obviously if they get caught they'll be up before the magistrate, see how they get on there." *ABC

Fisherperson Fined

A commercial fisherman has been convicted over the deaths of eight native birds that became entangled in his fishing nets at the Vasse Estuary near Busselton, WA.. Nicholas Michael Lucas was ordered to pay a $2000 fine and $119 in court costs after he pleaded guilty to three charges of taking protected fauna in Busselton Magistrate's Court. The Department of Environment and Conservation said two blue-billed ducks (Oxyura australis), five hoary-headed grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) and three musk ducks (Biziura lobata) became trapped when the nets were left unattended overnight. Two birds were found alive and released by a wildlife officer but eight drowned. DEC prosecutions coordinator Gail Ritchie urged fishers to place nets carefully and monitor them at all times. "There are many native birds and other wildlife which live in the estuary and it is important their protection is not compromised by inappropriate fishing activities," she said. Anyone who sees a sick or injured animal is asked to call the DEC Wildcare hotline on 9474 9055. *WA Now

Foeiegn Plants

There are fears a foreign water plant could spread into the ACT's Murrumbidgee River. The Mexican waterlily has been growing in large clusters in several locations across the Jerrabomberra wetlands on the eastern edge of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin. Molonglo Waterwatch coordinator Dr Stephen Skinner says it forms a very thick coat over the water, giving little space for other fauna. He says it is difficult to remove the plants. "You've got to get the whole lot of that stolon which is like an iceberg, the rhizome, it goes down into the mud," he said. "It's as many times longer than the stem of the waterlily above the surface and it'll last for a long, long time. If you break it off, it'll just regenerate from that broken fragment that's left behind." *ABC

Turtles Killed

Over 150 Olive Ridley turtles found dead after they were trapped in the nets of fishermen at Vajrapukotturu village in Srikakulam ( India) district on Friday. In one of the worst disasters, around 150 Olive Ridley turtles got trapped in a single net and found dead on Kothapeta beach under Vajrapukotturu mandal in Srikakulam district on Friday. The village sarpanch, Mr Ambati Raju, said he never saw so many dead turtles in his life and blamed the fishermen from Visakhapatnam for not taking preventive measures. He defended that the local fishermen never used such nets in which the turtles get trapped and dead. The founder chairman of Visakha society for prevention and care of animals, Mr Pradeep Nath, said the disaster took place as the mechanised boats and trawlers did not using turtle excluding devices. *Deccan Chronicle

Cats Killed

A feral cat eradication project on Tasman Island in Tasmania's south east is close to being declared a success. Cats were first introduced to the island in the 1940s as pets for the lighthouse keepers. The light was automated in the 1970s and the keepers left, but the cats stayed behind. The population grew to about 50 feral cats which have been feasting on up to 50,000 sea birds a year. The cats fed almost exclusively on vulnerable fairy prions and short-tailed shearwaters. Two years ago, the State Government began planning an eradication program backed with funding from tourism operator Rob Pennicott. He says the cats were having a devastating effect on the birds. "We had photos of cats with birds in their mouths and also when you went walking on the island just everywhere there were dead carcasses," he said. Baiting, trapping and hunting began last May after the birds had finished breeding and there was fewer for the cats to feed on. *ABC


Beerwah-based Wildlife Warriors have launched a world-first research project into the high number of deaths among hand-reared male koalas after release. Australian Wildlife Hospital manager Gail Gipp said as part of the project, driven by Steve Irwin's father Bob and Wildlife Warriors, 12 hand-reared male koalas would be fitted with radio-tracking collars when released in Blackbutt next month. "We know from data that males are finding it hard and aren't surviving when they should be," she said. "They are young and healthy. There's no reason this should be happening, but the females are doing well in the same areas." The 12-month research project will investigate migration patterns of rehabilitated koalas returned to the wild and their ability to re-establish home ranges. Wildlife Hospital senior veterinarian Jon Hanger said the koalas would be recaptured after data was collated, and released without collars into their natural habitat. The project had a $5,000 kick-start from Zarraffa's Coffee shops and hopes to raise $20,000 from a fundraiser. Caboolture and Pine Rivers shires are among the biggest problem areas for sick and injured koalas. *Northern Times

Outback Wildlife Boost

In some of the driest parts of Queensland, native animals are breeding prolifically after a big wet season and a rat plague is also being reported. Floodwaters from Queensland are flowing to Lake Eyre, in South Australia's far north, with the lake this year expected to reach levels not seen since 1974. At the Lochern National Park, south-west of Longreach, ranger Shane Hume says wildlife is blooming and that is attracting all sorts of rodents and birds. "There's a fairly large rat plague that's coming through at the moment ... they are native long-haired rats and with them obviously comes lots of other things," he said. "But with them, we are also noticing lots and lots of whistling plumed ducks - there are lots of those this year and lots of babies. "There are also huge groups of little black cormorants - those blokes are having a great time." *ABC

Seal Hunt Starts

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says high winds and a lack of ice are making the annual harp seal hunt difficult so far. "With the storms that have blown through over the last few days and the high winds, a lot of the ice is dispersing quite rapidly," said Alain Belle-Isle, a spokesman for the department. "The seals are moving around quite a bit." The hunt began Sunday at 6 a.m. for all sealers from the Gulf, Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands, but the department said only one boat from the Magdalen Islands reported plans to take part in the hunt on Monday. Belle-Isle said four observer permits have been issued so far and the department does not want a large number of observers overwhelming a small number of sealers. "We do try to treat every request and try to accommodate everyone but given the low level of sealing activity there may be a need to restrict the number of observers that can be allowed out at one time," he said. There will be three buffer zones around the coast of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island during the harp seal hunt, with most of the activity likely taking place between North Cape, P.E.I. and Miscou Island, N.B. The Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is estimated at nine million animals, more than four times what it was in the 1970s. In 2010, 67,327 harp seals were harvested. *CBC News


Please sign the petition (link below) to save the Indian leopard. Please forward.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/Save-Indian-Leopards/ *Network Item


The National Parks and Wildlife Service has confirmed the rare discovery of a threatened species south of Eden on the New South Wales far south coast. The first ever digital photograph of a spotted-tailed quoll has been captured on a remote camera in the Nadgee Nature Reserve. There is only one previous record of the quoll, on the edges of the reserve more than 20 years ago. An ecologist with the Service, Dr Andrew Claridge, says it confirms the health of the habitat. "It's a very significant finding," he said. "The species is an endangered species, and it's a top order native carnivore. "It performs vital ecological roles in the ecosystem. "It preys on a whole bunch of other species, and the fact that we have recorded quolls in that heathland environment means the heath must be in terrific condition." Dr Claridge says it is a rare find. "The only other record that we had of that animal down there was from 20 years ago, and it came from the periphery of the reserve," he said. "In order to support an animal like a spotted-tailed quoll there must be a diversity of different native prey for it. "So it's significant on a whole range of levels." *ABC

Pigmy Possums

For more than a decade they've been one of Australia's cutest poster critters for the perils of climate change, but now scientists are discovering the mountain pygmy possum may be able to adapt to a warming world. Australia's top expert on this rare alpine marsupial, NSW parks and wildlife ecologist Linda Broome has discovered a thriving population of the endangered possums in a large basalt boulder field just 30km north of the town of Cabramurra in Kosciuszko National Park. The area is 500m lower than other sites in the southern end of the park where the species are known to occur. Dr Broome said, ''It suggests the possums could be more resilient to climate change than we previously thought. * Canberra Times, Read More.....

Flying Foxes

Licensed shooting of fruit bats will be phased out in NSW from July and farmers will be given a share of $5 million to install nets to protect crops. The decision, which the government said was approved by Treasury before it entered caretaker mode on Friday, resolves a long battle between environmentalists and farmers over how to keep bats, also known as grey-headed flying foxes, out of orchards. Grey-headed flying fox numbers have declined 30 per cent in the past 10 years, the government says, due to shooting and clearing of native vegetation. The Premier, Kristina Keneally, said licences to shoot flying foxes would be phased out over three years from 2011-12. ''The [government] has worked hard to conserve and protect the many significant native animal populations … in NSW," she said. "The grey-headed flying-fox is one … we must work hard to preserve.'' But the Coalition's environment spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack, said three years was too long and a Coalition government would phase licences out in two. It also pledged to spend an extra $103 million on environment protection. The NSW Farmers' Association wants the government to pay for half the cost of nets. *ABC


High rainfall and strong River Murray flows have significantly boosted the population of the endangered southern bell frog in the Riverland. It was one of the most common frog species in Australia's south-east until its numbers started to dwindle from the late 1970s. Callie Nickolai from the Natural Resource Management Board says many of the frogs have been seen hopping across roads at Overland Corner near Barmera. "As we're doing our frog surveys we've noticed that as we walk along the edge of wetlands that you just hear this like little 'plop plop' of frogs jumping into the water and when we do manage to catch a glimpse of them we are finding that they're mainly the southern bell frogs," she said. *ABC

NMIT Kangaroos

A Brunswick vet has confirmed a female eastern grey kangaroo, discovered by wildlife volunteers at the Nothern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE’s Eden Park property, was shot from the front and died a slow and painful death. ``She would mostly likely have died as a result of complications associated with the bullet injury,’’ Dr Alistair Brown said. `On the video provided, a large amount of faeces was present at the exact location were she was found, indicating that her death would not have been instantaneous, rather, her death would more likely be slow and agonising.’‘ Australian Society for Kangaroos spokewoman Fiona Corke called on the RSPCA to prosecute the TAFE because she believed it had breached the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1986). Ms Corke said the TAFE’s cull permit should be revoked immediately. An RSPCA officer inspected another three carcasses last Friday. None of the bodies had bullet wounds to the brain, despite the cull permit conditions requiring the kangaroos to be shot in the head.

It is unclear who was responsible for shooting the kangaroos and Environment Minister Ryan Smith is on the record as saying that ``there has been no shooting that does not comply with the permit’‘. The RSPCA told the Whittlesea Leader it would investigate claims of animal cruelty to kangaroos at Eden Park after the first two carcasses were found by wildlife activists last week. Australian Society for Kangaroos spokeswoman Fiona Corke said the body of a male kangaroo was found with a gunshot wound to the ribs just metres from the Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE’s Northern Lodge farm boundary on Tuesday, March 22. “It would have taken 12-15 hours for that kangaroo to die; the ants would have started eating its eyes out before it died,” Ms Corke said. “And it was a body shot.”

The body of a female kangaroo was also found on NMIT grounds the following night, she said. “We believe it was shot in the guts and it has fallen down an embankment and its neck has snapped backwards,” she said. “There was no gunshot to the head, but there was a big hole in its stomach.” The protesters, who vowed to intervene at the first sign of shooting, said the animals were not shot in accordance with the permit. The carcasses provided proof that NMIT had breached cull regulations set out by the DSE, they said. The cull permit states that wounded animals must be tracked down immediately and killed humanely and that animals should be killed by a single shot to the head. RSPCA spokesman Tim Pilgrim confirmed the society would investigate the complaint. “This is of obvious concern to the RSPCA if an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has occurred,” Mr Pilgrim said. NMIT refused to comment. The Department of Sustainability and Environment approved a 12-month permit to shoot 300 eastern grey kangaroos at the TAFE last October. The TAFE has the option of applying for two more yearly permits which, if approved, could see the slaughter of 900 kangaroos over three years. *Whittlesea Leader

Coal Seam Gas

Veteran environmental campaigner Drew Hutton has been arrested while protesting against the coal seam gas industry on a property near Tara in southwest Queensland. Landowners near Tara, west of Dalby, had warned that protesters would form a blockade to stop a Queensland Gas Company pipeline coming into the community. Mr Hutton's wife, Greens spokeswoman Libby Connors, said he was arrested after refusing to move and remained in custody this afternoon. She said the “Lock the Gate” blockade took place on a private property with the landowner's permission, but legislation meant the company had right of access. Mr Hutton was a co-founder of the Australian Greens and Queensland Greens. It was the second consecutive day of drama at the Tara Estate protest. Yesterday, protesters formed a human barricade in an attempt to prevent the Queensland Gas Company from building a 16-kilometre pipeline to take coal seam gas from five wells on the estate to the nearby Kenya gas processing plant.

Friends of the Earth member and fellow campaigner Cassie McMahon said Mr Hutton was among about 25 people at the site today. Ms McMahon said a large number of police officers arrived on the scene this afternoon. “They told us under section 804 of the Petroleum and Gas Act that we were not allowed to be there and that we had to leave the premises,” she said. “The remainder of us were in the process of departing when he [Mr Hutton] was arrested. “Drew Hutton has refused the bail conditions and could be in custody for 30 days at the Toowoomba watch house.” Comment has been sought from the Queensland Police Service. Ms McMahon, who yesterday chained herself to a bulldozer as part of the protest, said campaigners were undeterred by the developments today. “I’m very surprised that landholders do not have the ability to invite people to stay on their property to protect their property,” Ms McMahon said. “It leaves us feeling even more determined that we need people power to prevail and force the current laws to be changed to protect property holders’ rights, as long as the long term impact on our land and water.” *Age

Meanwhile the Mining Industry has said...Queensland’s “horrible” environment for mining exploration is becoming even uglier, the industry’s peak body says. Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche says the state’s policy settings are bad and getting worse, with the Labor government buckling to green pressure and reneging on promises to miners. And the Queensland Greens say the coal seam gas (CSG) industry will be the focus of their next state election campaign. Greens spokeswoman Libby Connors says CSG mining is at the top of the Greens environmental concerns for the state.

Wallabies Stranded

Up to 500 wallabies have been marooned on an island in the middle of Lake Argyle in the east Kimberley. The animals, known as agile wallabies, became stranded late last week while trying to seek refuge from record rains and flooding in the region. The Department of Environment and Conservation's Daryl Moncrieff says the Kimberley office is keeping a close eye on the animals. "We've already flown over the island twice with a fixed-wing aircraft to get a rough estimate of the number of animals we're dealing with and DEC officers, accompanied by a veterinarian will be landing on the island with a helicopter this Monday to further assess the situation," he said. Mr Moncrieff says the island may not provide a safe haven for the animals. "Flood waters are expected to rise over the coming weeks, which will see the animals confined to an even smaller area of dry land for at least two to three months," he said.

"At present the island is approximately 10km from the lake's shore and measures about 300 x 100 metres. "During the dry season the island is part of a rocky promontory so there is little in the way of food to sustain the animals. "After we land on the island we will have a better idea of the options that are available to us to prevent animal suffering. "We will make a decision on the appropriate action to be taken in the coming days." Mr Moncrieff says the Department is warning people to keep away from the area. "Because agile wallabies can be prone to stress-induced death, we are asking people to keep clear of the animals and not approach them closely by air or water," he said. *WA Now


The hooligans who slaughtered 13 wallabies in a national park tore joeys from the pouches of the dead mothers and threw them into a river. Wildlife rangers believe about five or six babies were drowned. Ranger Sally Heaton said: "I'm disgusted - we've got to catch these people." Fishermen have given the NT Parks and Wildlife Service excellent descriptions of the three men and one woman and their vehicles. "These people had nothing to do one day so they thought they'd go and wipe out wallabies," Ms Heaton said. "Apparently, they were all drunk." The agile wallabies were shot with high-powered rifles in Djukbinj National Park, near Fogg Dam, about 60km south-east of Darwin, last Sunday. Ms Heaton said the killers were probably after dog meat. But they dumped the carcasses in a small quarry on the side of the road leading to the Arnhem Highway, where they were found by a ranger.

Fishermen said the wallabies were piled in the back of four-wheel-drives and the gang brazenly pulled out the joeys and hurled them live into Scotts Creek. "I imagine they had planned to take the carcasses home for their dogs, but the animals became bloated as the day went on and they discarded them by the side of the road," Ms Heaton said. The gang face a string of charges, including killing native wildlife, discharging a firearm in a national park and cruelty to animals. All four were caucasian. One of the men was described as being "very skinny'. Another was tall with dark hair and a goatee and the third had blond hair. The woman had light, brown hair. Both vehicles were HZJ75 series V6 diesel (no turbo) Toyota Landcruisers. One was metallic sky blue with a black, steel bull bar and tinted windows. It had a hard roof top over the tray and a wide sticker across the windscreen. The ute had driving spotlights and blue writing on the number plates. The driver was possibly carrying a white pup. The other Landcruiser was white, also with a black steel bull bar and tinted windows. It had a highlift jack across the roll bar, a winch and driving spotlights, blue tarp, white steel tray and HF aerial. The vehicle was fitted with 35 inch Goodridge tyres. Anyone with information about the shootings is urged to call Parks and Wildlife on 0401 110 205. *NT News


Wildlife lovers across India are celebrating the increase in the population of big cats in the country from 1,411 to 1,706 including 70 found in the Sunderbans which was not part of the 2006 count . And, the northeast can proudly claim it has contributed substantially to the 16 per cent rise in the big cat count, which in figures amounts to 295. According to the 2010 tiger census results released by Union minister for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi on Monday, the NE region, covering the hilly states, Brahmaputra floodplains and the northern part of West Bengal, is home to an estimated 148 tigers with the upper and lower limits hovering between 178 and 118 respectively. Of this, Assam has the highest number of tigers 143. Mizoram has five, while Arunachal Pradesh was not included in the census operation. The region itself, according to the latest census, shows a considerable increase in its tiger population as compared to Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India's 2008 report. According to the earlier report, Assam had 70 tigers, Mizoram had six and northern West Bengal had 10.

The 2010 census also reported that a total forest area of 2,206 sq km is now covered in Assam as compared to 1,164 sq km in 2006 (the report came out in 2008).The tigers in West Bengal's Buxa Tiger Reserve, however, have not been included in the latest census report, though the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has found 12 big cats here. Buxa field director R P Saini said this figure was accepted by the Centre. "The government has accepted the report of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, but the figure has not been included in the latest census yet," Saini said. MoEF sources said a comprehensive report on the census would come out in July. Although the break-up of the tiger population in each of the tiger reserves in the northeast and northern West Bengal was not available in the 2010 census, sources involved in the big cats estimation works in Assam said Kaziranga National Park has made a significant contribution to the rise in the tiger population in the region. The park has an estimated 88 tigers, followed by Orang national park with 13 and Manas national park with nine.

"The fact is that the northeast still has a substantial tiger population. We have found out the figures through our estimation work," wildlife biologist M Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak, which was involved in tiger census work in the region, said. Ahmed said the tiger population outside the protected areas has not yet been assessed. "If non-protected areas in the region are taken into account, the number would rise further," Ahmed said. The 2010 tiger census has shown the promise of further increase in the big cat population of the region, and dealing with poachers has become an even bigger challenge than before. With the porous international border with Myanmar falling in the region and the soaring demand for tiger parts in China, the threat of poaching has increased further. There have been several hauls of tiger bones in Assam and Manipur in recent years. "There is a need to strengthen the anti-poaching mechanism in the region. We are worried about the tigers in non-protected areas," Ahmed said. *India Times